Search me!

Oct 1, 2023

Bring the lightning.

Quality is a slippery notion, especially when discussing it with those whose ethical approaches to providing services are even slipperier. According to one well-known figure in the trashlation sector, "Quality doesn't matter". Knowing that individual as I do, I know that this utterance was intended as a provocation, and that it is likely backed by some almost-persuasive sleight-of-hand involving differing definitions and whatnot. Given the variability in the human emotional perception of quality (as with obscenity, I cannot define quality, but I know it when I experience it), all of the attempts one sees to quantify it in language services seem all the more absurd.

All the myriad process definitions, ISO certifications, stamps and seals of sinlessness, diplomata, grants of honoris causa et cetera cannot transform the humble lightning bug into a Bolt of Zeus.

Nor are Large Language Models (LLMs) capable of such linguistic transubstantiation, but rather the opposite. The predictive practices at their core could take a training feed of all the world's great literature (and likely already have), and yet the output would be nothing more than an insipid averaging of the basest mediocrities. Only the basest of the mediocre could mistake such text for objectively good quality.

Were we to plot the degree of enthusiasm for AI as the "future" of trashlation against the degree of actual understanding and competence for good language, the graph would look something like this:

But a recent article in The Economist suggests a better way. Curiously, it is a process I resort to myself when the greatest subtlety and balance are needed in a work, for example in the translation of good poetry, or a letter of condolence occasioned by the loss of a belovèd child.

Back to pen on paper. Where the pressure of the nib is an expression in itself, as the sweeping flourish of a final letter or a well-executed ligature.

"But that's ABSURD!!!" some might protest, glancing nervously at their smartphone timers counting down to the next due delivery of linguistic sausage. Much too slow some might think. But is it? Really?

"But you need to run QA and you can't do that with a sheet of scribbles on paper!" some might suggest, more reasonably. Ah, but I can, merely dictate the text I will have read aloud already time and again as I refined the words and their rhythm, and then, in good electronic form, all the slings and arrows of outrageous regex are my quality arsenal.

We have a slow food movement. Perhaps if we want more delicious, digestible, properly communicative words in our translated lives, we should slow the fuck down and let them crystallize, with exquisite subconscious fractal creativity, to form bolts of emotion and understanding that pierce the veil between this world and others as they flash across a page.

As the morlocks cower in their caves and hovels, tapping tiny tablets in their claws, prompting their artificial gods to take this terror of meaning from their shriveled world.

Sep 21, 2023

Grog and grub with me mateys in Cascais

I got my personal introduction to NFTs last night over pizza in Portugal. WTF? I'm still not sure what to do with this thing I minted, nor even how to download it (if this is possible), but it was a fun bit of madness in the second (or maybe third, I'll know better when the hangover clears) of these gatherings I've attended.

They say you should keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Well, from one perspective that makes LocLunch the perfect social opportunity for our strange times in the language service professions. I had excellent chats with someone well placed in a company that is too often the epitome of Evil Trashlation... and her Russian friend, of course. And Brazilians galore, oh my, those awful people who come to Portugal to steal all the good Catholic men and women from their sanctioned wedlocks and -chains. And I saw that the tradition of German intrigue in Portugal is alive and well maintained by the organizer of last night's event, the energetic entrepreneur Jan Hinrichs, who recently moved his family and headquarters from Madrid (where the Spanish government has lost its business plot) to this, Nossa Senhora's sacred country. Who further undermined our moral defenses with the suggestion that we all get some ice cream nearby before dispersing to our scattered night shelters.

I am thoroughly compromised by those two scoops of mango and third scoop of maracuja. And by the kindness of the Russian fellow who saved me from a dodgy midnight train connection and got me home safely to Benfica.

And though the table was well occupied by those who make their own rules and view the conventional trashlation sector "wisdom" with a jaundiced eye, they followed the the LocLunch Basic Rules very well. This is a social thing, not a fucking sales event. Damn. I had my elevator speech all prepared....

Where'er ye may dwell, whate'ever seas ye may sail, matey, whene'er in port or Porto, join the motley crew of LocLunch for some fine grog and grub with all cutlasses sleeping peacefuçlly in thar scabbards.


Sep 19, 2023

Flirting with a Fiverr & more

If you always want to get paid...

Payment practices are a perpetual pain in Trashlation World. What professional translator or interpreter has not, at some point, faced difficulty getting paid for work delivered. Or in my case, consultant, independent solution developer and instructor, since I retired from translation three months ago and no longer accept such tasks in the increasingly thankless environment where they are requested.

Net never has become the modus operandi of too many wankers in the NMT-AI-MOUSE Fanboy and -gurl Klub, and when B of A, Barclays, Santander of some other clan of thieves fails to provide the desired credit for the Incredible Journey to Ruin, there will always be those AI Artists Formerly Known as Trashlators who understand that in matter of money, all that really matters is mindset.

Fuck you. Pay me. Well, imagine getting paid! Isn't that exciting? Fuck you. Pay me. I'm more excited by the structure of your fucking kneecaps and how fragile it is... SET YOUR MIND TO PAY ME.

But wait, Paulie, there may be a better way!

A perpetually solvent friend who owns a couple of German service companies once shared his secret: when in doubt, demand payment in advance. When there is no doubt, demand double. But what if the prospect just walks away? Offer them a peck on the check and hold the door for them in gratitude for the grief they are about to save you.

Times are hard. But payment practices are, alas, too often limp. Like a little mushroom past its sell-by date and full of mold and other things best not named.

I'm personally fortunate not to deal with many deadbeats; avoiding business with Italian and American companies certainly helps. Well, I have a soft spot for the Portuguese, but let's not go there.

I have another problem. I had administrative work even more than I hate not getting paid, and since I acquired a retired surgeon as a billing assistant and, at about the same time, took on a new role as a trainer for incoherent billing software like SAGE, not getting paid has been a source of surprising pleasure. But our five dogs still demand food, and if it does come in bags and come on time, well... there is that extra weight I'm carrying, the Portuguese pit bull is fond of reminding me.

And I am sure that many clients and friends and friends with the misfortune to be clients keep a special dartboard with my face on it for those times I get around to writing the bill after a year of so.

Fuck you. Pay me. Well fuck you. Write the fucking bill. Yeah, right, you tell me again how all that works here in Portugal where the tax laws are so screwy that almost none of the invoicing tools typically used by translators, companies involved with language services (regardless of whether they actually provide any) in other countries are compliant with Portuguese tax law, so I often feel myself well and truly fucked.

Enter the performance platforms such as Fiverr, which I am beginning to consider for certain recurring requests where I have asked Dios for a better intake process in which people tell me exactly what they need, provide the means of doing that, including the money to pay for the electricity to drive the tools I use to reach their goal and, well, just let me get on with it and make something nice and bless them for a change.

I started toying with platformed pre-payment about four years ago, when I started using Teachable as a way to demonstrate to memoQ and others how professional tools instruction could be improved and content could be shaped in more useful ways. I may not have been successful in convincing others to Do the Right Thing, but now that I have more time on my hands and have resigned myself to take a shot at that myself and maybe actually charge for all that knowledge that so many people mint money with, I am really, really glad that the Portuguese tax mysteries are handled in a way that does not involve me at all and is completely correct. No more constant special requests for special invoices for special people in special countries and special claims on my non-existent admin time.

So, that's the news, I guess. Next time you need a training video, a dash of regex for your project soup, a magical mysterious import filter for Formats Unknown or the like, there's a process. And it's not "fuck you". That's between consenting buyers and the platforms from which they draw their services....